While X-ray, CT, and MRI scans look at the anatomy of your brain, PET (positron emission tomography) imaging provides doctors with additional information and data on how the brain and its tissues are functioning. This type of imaging detects areas that are potentially damaged and not utilizing as much glucose (energy) as they should be by measuring metabolism in up to 120 regions of the brain.
PET brain imaging measures important body functions such as oxygen use, blood flow, and glucose (sugar) metabolism. Hyperactive areas of the brain will utilize glucose at a higher rate than normal areas, which is useful for monitoring the activity of cancerous tumors that metabolize more sugar than normal cells
The PET brain scan requires a small amount of radioactive material called a tracer, which is given through a vein in the arm. This tracer travels through blood and is absorbed by the brain and your body. The absorption process usually takes about 1 hour.
Since the tracer “attaches” itself to the glucose, when highlighted under a PET scanner, it allows doctors to see how the brain is working and expending energy as well as see if there are any abnormalities. Abnormal results from a PET brain scans may be due to Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, traumatic brain injury, brain tumor, epilepsy or movement disorders (such as Parkinson’s disease).